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Across the Universe

(John Lennon & Paul McCartney)

Although this song is credited to Lennon & McCartney it was written solely by John Lennon in 1967.

It came about after he had been lying in bed with his wife when she started to drone on about something.  She fell asleep but he stayed awake with the same words going round and round in his head.  That prompted him to get up and go downstairs to use the words he heard, “words are flowing out like endless rain in a paper cup”, as lyrics for a song.  Using the influence of his current interest in transcendental meditation he added extra lines and wrote the whole song there and then.    The other lyrics included the mantra “Jai guru devaom”, roughly translated as “Hail to God divine”, which link the verse to the chorus.  Once he’d finished he went back upstairs to bed.

Lennon said that he thought they were maybe the most poetic and best lyrics he’d written when interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine in 1970.

The song was first recorded in mono on 4th February 1968 when The Beatles were recording a single before they left for a visit to India.  The back-up vocals were provided by the two teenagers Lizzie Bravo and Gayleen Pease who had just been outside in the street and the sitar was performed by George Harrison.  It was recorded over the next few days along with “Lady Madonna”, “Hey Bulldog” and “Inner Light” but in the end was shelved along with “Inner Light” while the other two were released.

However, the song had been heard by Spike Milligan during these 1968, and he thought it would be a good inclusion for an album he was trying to put together for the World Wildlife Fund.  The Beatles allowed it to be used and it was eventually released in a remixed stereo version in December 1969 on the charity’s album No One’s Gonna Change Our World. This particular version later appeared on The Beatles’ compilations Rarities and Past Masters and the original version recorded before the master appears on Anthology 2.  Another February 1968 remix appeared on the 2003 Let It Be…Naked.

Also in 1969 the song resurfaced again when it was used for the Get Back/Let It Be sessions and it was later featured in the film Let It Be being performed by John Lennon.  When the album got its final title of Let It Be it was included in the track listing and the remixed album version produced by Phil Spector left out the back up singing by the girls but included choral and orchestral overdubbing.

In 2005 the band Velvet Revolver, which was put together from many of the top artists of the day, sang the song at the Grammy Awards.  It was subsequently released on single with the proceeds being given to the victims of the tsunami in Asia.  It made it to No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Two years later in 2007 it was the title of a film which used Beatles’ songs as its plot line.

In 2008, exactly forty years to the day after the first recording of the song was made, NASA used the song as an interstellar message where it was transmitted towards Polaris by a 70m antenna situated in Madrid, Spain.  It was the first time a song had been transmitted into deep space intentionally.

Throughout the years many other artists have performed or recorded the song and just a few of these include Fiona Apple, Cilla Black, Bono, Jackson Browne, David Bowie, Electric Light Orchestra, Alicia Keys, Cyndi Lauper, The Scorions, 10cc, Steve Tyler, Rufus Wainwright, Roger Waters and Stevie Wonder.

https://youtu.be/YpGME3Iv7Yg

Sources:

  1. http://www.beatlesbible.com/songs/across-the-universe/
  2. http://www.allmusic.com/song/across-the-universe-mt0010130340
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Across_the_Universe
  4. http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=179
  5. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/22951001#.Uv–mMvivDc